The way Scooter Bynum approached Saturday afternoon, the past would not be prologue. His scoring deserted him in state championship basketball games the previous two seasons, sure, but he figured that did not serve as adequate reason to shackle his shot the third time around.
And so it was that Monroe Catholic's junior guard came out firing 3-pointers at Sullivan Arena, burying three in the opening minutes and giving the Rams an injection of confidence that spurred a 60-52 victory over Anchorage Christian School in the Class 3A boys title game.
In the third straight championship meeting between the teams, the Rams seized their second straight title.
Bynum kick-started a strong opening and the Rams never trailed after the first minute. When Bynum's shot proved smooth from the outset, the Rams and coach Frank Ostanik knew a repeat was probable.
"That's what sparked it all,'' said Monroe Catholic junior guard David Stepovich. "That gave us all confidence.''
For Bynum, Saturday was all about confidence.
"You've got to believe in yourself and in your game, and coach 'O' gives me that belief,'' Bynum said. "Confidence is everything. I came out and thought, 'I'm going to look for my shot and one of them is going fall,' and all of them did.''
Ostanik said seeing Bynum light it up early was a beautiful vision.
"We tease him,'' Ostanik said. "He really struggled in the first two (state championship games) and it wasn't indicative of how good he is. When he hit those shots, I knew at that point we were going to get a great game from him.''
Bynum scored 16 points to go with four steals and three assists.
Bynum helped propel the Rams to a 13-4 lead in the opening three minutes, when he drained three 3-pointers and Michael Hale made two lay-ups. The Lions, who beat the Rams for the title in 2011, never got closer than eight points in the first half and Monroe led 30-18 at the break.
But ACS winnowed the gap to 32-29 on Nathan Simmers' jumper from the lane midway through the third quarter. The Lions got the deficit down to 40-39 on Calvin Hoffman's baseline jumper with more than five minutes to go in the game.
Jalen Terry buoyed the Lions, scoring 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and grabbing seven rebounds.
"We were down three, then down eight, then down one, then down eight,'' Hoffman said. "It felt like we couldn't get over the hump. I think we were a little anxious that we were in it.''
Hoffman, who finished with 14 points, said his team's determined rally stemmed from a halftime deliberation of its deficit.
"I said at halftime, 'If the game was over, would you be happy with how you played?' And we weren't, so we went out to do something about it.''
The Lions, who got three key steals from Immanuel Lopez in the fourth quarter, rushed some shots and committed some turnovers when they had the Rams in their sights.
The Rams, meanwhile, never surrendered the lead.
"I think ACS is almost invincible when they play with a lead,'' Ostanik said. "You're going to have to have the toughness to survive their runs, but we think at some point they're going to start forcing shots.
"Our kids persevered. They're exceptionally tough and they buy into what we do, and they're unselfish -- and I think all that comes from great parents.''
Down the stretch, the Rams relied on Stepovich, who made seven of eight free throws in the second half and 11 of 13 in the game on the way to a game-high 19 points.
In the last couple of weeks, Stepovich said, he has taken 300 free throws after practice wrapped, preparing for moments like Saturday.
"Shooting those free throws after practice paid off,'' he said.
ACS has four seniors and Monroe features two, making a fourth straight title game between the teams seem like a decent bet.
"We're looking forward to seeing them next year,'' Bynum said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Bethel 67, Mt. Edgecumbe 55
Three players scored in double figures to lift Bethel to a 67-55 win over Mt. Edgecumbe in the third-place game.
Theodore Naneng led the way with 17, Carlie Romer added 14 and Taylor Hoffman 12 for the Warriors.
Donald Edenshaw's 14 points and John Peterson's 13 topped Mt. Edgecumbe.
Nome 47, Grace 44
Dominique Hall drained a 3-pointer with two seconds left to propel Nome to a thrilling 47-44 win over Grace Christian in the game for fourth place.
Hall finished with 11 points and teammates Klay Baker and Cameron Smith each tossed in 12.
Hans Karlberg, whose 3-pointer for Grace tied the game 44-44 with 50 seconds left, finished with 12 points. Kyle Markel added 11.